Artist Highlight – Philip Shirley

Artist Highlight – Philip Shirley

Philip ShirleySince his first appearance in print–a poem in a literary journal thirty years ago–Philip Shirley has been published more than 100 times. His award-winning writing includes fiction, poetry, criticism, feature articles, speeches and business articles in a wide variety of magazines, newspapers and books. His latest publication is a novel, The White Lie, which was released in July 2014 by Mindbridge Press.

In 2008, Jefferson Press selected his short story collectionOh Don’t You Cry For Me as a finalist for the Jefferson Prize and subsequently published the book to critical acclaim. The next year Triumph Books published a co-authored cultural history of professional baseball titled Sweet Spot: 125 Years of Baseball and The Louisville Slugger.

In addition to his literary work, Philip is CEO of GodwinGroup, an ad agency headquartered in Mississippi. He is a long-time board member and former officer of the Alabama Writers’ Forum, a partnership program of the Alabama State Council on the Arts. While his home is in Madison, Mississippi, much of his work is written on Dauphin Island, Alabama, or in a cabin in the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains in north Alabama a mere rifle shot from the Tennessee line. He has been married to the painter Virginia Shirley for more than 30 years.

Philip’s publications also include two chapbooks of poetry, Four Odd and Endings. He has published poetry and criticism in numerous literary magazines and on Alabama Public Radio. His feature writing has appeared in both consumer and business magazines.

In college he was a member of the editorial staff of the Black Warrior Review and later was founder and editor of a literary press. He created and produced, with Steven Ford Brown, The Poet’s Corner on Alabama Public Radio, which received an Obelisk Award as the best radio arts program in Alabama.

He is an Alabama native and graduate of the University of Alabama (B.A., M.A.), but first attended college at Patrick Henry, now Alabama Southern Community College, in Monroeville, the official Literary Capital of Alabama.

For additional information, reviews of Philip’s books, and appearance dates, visit:

Phillip, what motivated you and how did you start moving in the direction of being an accomplished author?

“I started writing in high school a little bit and got serious about it in college.  Creative writing  interested me and beyond that I knew that I wanted my work skill set to be based on writing.  My first job was as a speechwriter for a federal program.  Through writing I learned communication, public relations and advertising skills.  On the side, I felt motivated to continue with creative writing, wrote and published a book of short stories and continued with a book about the history of baseball and the Louisville Slugger. I continued working at my chosen craft and last week my most recent novel was released.”

What advice and wisdom would you share with a young person who feels  motivated to aspire to be a published writer?

“Write a lot, you do get better. You don’t start out good. Don’t be afraid of the editing process. Don’t fall in love with your own words.  My just released novel had 30,000 words edited and cut out of it. I then started over and re-wrote 25,000 new words to replace the 30,000 that were cut out.  You just can’t fall in love with your own words. It is a craft; it is not just an art; it is a craft and you get better at it and you hone it.  The sword isn’t sharp the first time it goes against the stone; you have to keep working at it and writing is the same way.”

What’s next for Phillip Shirley author and CEO?
“My career and avocation is writing. Someday in my post advertising career I will mostly be a novelist. I have another finished novel now in the editing process. I will soon put that one on the market and seek an agent or publisher for this next project.”

Any thoughts about the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center as to its place and role in the state and in helping young Mississippians develop their dreams and talents?

“People have to be able to communicate. I don’t care what your profession is. Writing has an impact on literacy and literacy is an issue in our state.  Anything you do that is not purely the visual arts involves writing.  People have to be able to read and write well and that translates into a broad array of success opportunities in life. The arts and this venue can contribute to that: it can get young people interested in writing and literature through which they develop those communications skills that then serve them whether they drive a truck, weld, or become a CEO. They need those communication skills and the arts contribute to that.”

Interviewed by:  David Stender and Leesa Harris